How do you increase employee productivity? It’s a question that has been asked by companies for over 70 years. According to experts, the answer to that question is related to three basic needs of all employees: autonomy, connection, and competence.
“Productivity must go up” This was reported in all newspapers in 1950. The Western world was in the midst of reconstruction after world war 2 and the shortages were large. Prime Ministers even appointed a special minister to address this issue. Time, labor, machines, and materials needed to be used more efficiently. Everyone had to achieve more. But how were they going to do that? Read on and find out how focusing on 3 basic human needs can increase productivity.
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Fast forward to the current situation
Decades and far too many management books later, entrepreneurs are still asking this same question: How do you get your employees to be more productive? Most companies nowadays realize that a nice salary and setting targets only are far too meager incentives and, moreover, do little for a healthy corporate culture. So employers have to do more for their employees.
Bonus for early sleepers
And they do. There is meditation, yoga, and power napping during working hours; we can play sports and go to the theater at the company’s expense; experiments are underway with shorter working days and weeks, and an American health insurance company even paid out a bonus to employees who went to bed early for at least 20 days in a row. They received a reward of $ 25 per night. In my mind a little bit childish, but ok.
So it is increasingly not allowed to work more for improved productivity. Behind this paradox lies the idea that a fit, healthy, and rested employee can do more work than a tired one.
Do we indeed become more productive from doing nothing? Experts have reservations about this. Sure, relaxation and exercise are important “tools, as are an adjustable desk and an ergonomic chair. They fully support that an employee lives a healthy life, but that is not enough. You can still become extremely tired in a completely healthy way.
Three basic needs
Whether the work gives you energy or costs you, is not related to those tools, but to psychosocial factors. They cite the self-determination theory of the Americans Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. This theory states that humans have three basic needs: autonomy, connection, and competence.
A competent employee is skilled to do what is asked of him or her. For example, a supervisor needs to keep an eye on whether someone needs extra training – or a crash course in video calling in times of corona. Employees are autonomous if they can contribute or give a personal accent to their work. Think of a doctor who has to see twenty patients every day, but who can decide for himself how to organize those appointments.
And connection comes with support and appreciation. A supervisor can say: “Here you have ten files, they have to be completed today. Good luck! “But you can also use this formulation:” I have ten files here. Think along for a moment, how are we going to get rid of them?” With the first, you are on your own, with the second you feel support.
Results of the research
If these three basic needs are met, this will lead to more enthusiasm. And according to a meta-analysis by the American research firm Gallup, work engagement leads to a productivity improvement of 20 to 25 percent, absenteeism among enthusiastic employees decreases by 35 to 45 percent, and 40 to 60 percent fewer mistakes are made. An enormous effect, the experts agree. The opposite is also possible: if you frustrate these basic needs, people will automatically develop burnout complaints and they will drop out.
Employer of the year
In any case, something is going well in the open-plan office of Tony’s Chocolonely, because the chocolate bar manufacturer was recently named employer of the year by Effectory – which surveys employee satisfaction and involvement in organizations. Indeed, everything is done to keep the employees of Tony’s worldwide sharp and happy: there is a change trophy, a friendship booklet, a fair with which you can do something that has nothing to do with work. Every six months they change desks. to prevent group formation, the ‘School of Chocolate’ offers a package of training courses and there are outdoor boot camps and relay races.
Instead of productivity, they talk about impact. “What contribution have you made to our mission – slave-free chocolate – and how did you achieve it? So it’s not just about getting hard numbers, such as the number of interactions on Instagram after a marketing campaign. They consider the way in which these results were achieved, with which attitude, just as important. It is precisely those hard and soft factors that contribute to productivity.
Crucial for enthusiasm
Such a clearly defined mission as that of Tony’s Chocolonely and how you will get there, are crucial for enthusiasm. An organization must communicate its vision and ambition well with the employee. Then he knows: this is the ship’s destination, and I am on the right ship. If people don’t see a dot on the horizon, they start to think: what am I doing here? And they feel alive. I often see it happening in organizations that have “targets” and only look at turnover and sales. There is very little vision behind that.
Another company became the best home employer in 2020 in the 20-50 employees category. This employer had shown their best side during the corona year: each employee received an amount to set up their own workplace, ‘buddy groups’ kept close contact with colleagues and absurd assignments were given for solidarity – following the route with vacuuming and wad of paper – that was filmed and shared.
Employees were also given the opportunity to declare corona hours. During those hours there was no work, but for example, children were taught. “So that nobody had to get to work in the evening to catch up on work,” says their Director, “because that goes just as well, but in the long run, it is not good for a healthy balance. Ultimately, everyone becomes less productive. “
Freedom and trust
The corona hours are internal hours for which the company cannot send an invoice to the municipality. They pay for it themselves. In fact, the employees are therefore less productive. And yet the Director does not see it that way. “You get the opportunity to work less, but no one writes down 36 corona hours. People feel freedom and trust, that’s what it’s all about. “
So the company came up with a smart measure in which all basic needs came together. In the postwar era of the 1950s, there were no self-determination theories with memorized sequences, but even then they had understood some of the relationships between intrinsic motivation and productivity. We don’t need to talk for a minute about a satisfied person achieving more than a dissatisfied man. There is certainly a major social issue here, which is directly related to the increase in productivity and so of our prosperity. No management book can beat that.
Increasing productivity has been the subject in corporate life for many years and in many books. Focusing on three basic human needs may do the trick. After all, happy employees will be more effective employees.
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